In 1805 england became master of the seas by

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In 1805, England became master of the seas by defeating the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar. They blockaded Europe and often confiscated American merchant ships. Quoting from a book Philadelphia In The War of 1812, "The second war with England, toward which the country had been gravitating for many years, was brought very closely home to Philadelphia by reason of their important shipping interest. Large sums of money were invested in, and a considerable portion of the population was directly or indirectly sustained by, overseas commerce. The various embargoes of England and France during the Napoleon wars, the general invasion of the rights of neutral powers, and the impressment of their seamen by the 6
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belligerents, led to a feeling of great resentment in the United States." The constant interference with shipping caused a scarcity of some items, and Girard's profits were huge when his ships did succeed in getting through the blockades. When England continued to harass American ships, Girard anticipated a conflict. In 1807, he started liquidating his overseas merchandise and collecting his foreign debt. The harassment of ships led to the War of 1812 and to Girard's decision to enter the banking business. The Stephen Girard Collection contains numerous correspondence relating to his business ventures that sheds a strong light upon the development of his character, under a succession of sad and in some cases disastrous events, mingled with incidents and ventures of surprising success. “The subjects of public interest include his close business relations with France during the Reign of Terror, in which his personal friend and trusted correspondent, Mr. Samatan, of Marseilles, fell a victim to the guillotine; the Negro Insurrection in St. Domingo, in which some of his closest friends were brutally murdered and others escaped only to die in abject poverty and suffering; the suppression of American trade in the Mediterranean by the Algerians and other pirates, and the depredation on American commerce by British and French cruisers in each of which he had a strong personal interest. In his business ventures, notwithstanding reverses of the most disastrous nature, great progress and continuous expansion are the dominant features. With heavy losses in vessels captured by the French and British cruisers, and in cargoes sequestered by the governors of the islands in the West Indies, for which payment was received in worthless drafts upon the French Government, we find rapid growth in maritime interests, with additional ships being purchased or built. The destruction of trade in the Mediterranean, followed by its broad expansion with Portugal, with the Atlantic ports, of France and Spain, with Amsterdam and Hamburg, and the ports of the Baltic; while stupendous profits on cargoes of wheat, flour, and other food stuffs far more than compensated for the losses due to the inadequate protection afforded by the American flag, and led to the establishment of standing credit with the leading bankers of the world.
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  • Fall '19
  • Test, Second Bank of the United States, Stephen Girard, Marie Antoinette Girard

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